Saturday, June 12, 2010

Nowhere to Hide

(Mario Azzopardi, 1987)
Emotionally affecting, structurally clever, breakneck paced, wonderfully cast - this movie is so fun and so well made that it almost doesn't matter that it fails to live up to its initial promise. There's nothing slavish or cloying about the film's debt to Hitchcock - the influence is all thematic/structural, inhering in the individual's hallucinatory struggle against enormous, unknowable institutional forces. In this version the villians are in the upper echelons of the military-industrial establishment, and as Amy Madigan uncomprehendingly suffers the consequences of her offed husband's inquiry into lax safety standards, the ideological implications of the scenario up the interest. Not that the film ever promises a truly radical critique - in another nod to the master, there are significant hedges from the outset. But sometime after the halfway mark the film stops taking itself entirely seriously, and while the goofy action stuff has its definite pleasures, it does feel like a bit of a copout given the intensity of the early scenes. The almost totally blank wrap-up gives away the film's intellectual retreat, and well before then promising bits like the blowtorch-to-the-face and the homing device under the pillow seem to beg for further exploitation. And I wish they'd cut back on the conspiracy conference stuff, which is never a win cinematically. But on the whole this is still an impressively smart piece of work, and worth a watch for sure.

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